A Different Kind of Murder by Cop

Here’s a story from Douglas County, the western exurbs of Atlanta.

Shawn Clark, 29, who served with the Atlanta police from March 4, 2010 to Jan. 7, 2013, was arrested Nov. 14 in Union City in connection with the fatal shooting that afternoon of Antonio Ellison, 27, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Glenn Daniel said.

Kind of lame journalism here, because the salient fact isn’t that he was an Atlanta cop, but rather that this ended almost three years ago. It’s impossible to make a proper snap judgment (and this is the AJC, so snap judgments are usually the point) without knowing what he’s done since then. Clearly, he’s not a cop, because the article would/should tell us where he serves now; but then why isn’t he a cop? Because he opened his own Dippin’ Dots franchise? Because he’s living the dream working as a bookkeeper? (No more wrestling with drunks!) Because he’s a semi-employed ne’er-d0-well who resigned in disgrace?

Clark and a woman had gone to a residence in the 2500 block of Winding Creek Drive in Lithia Springs to get her children and personal belongings, Daniel said.

Clark and Ellison argued and began fighting, and Clark shot Ellison with a handgun and left the scene, Daniel said.

Lt. Glenn Daniel is getting a lot of airtime here. But we don’t have anything like enough information here to have any idea what might have happened. The classic story would be that Ellison is the now-ex of the woman Clark was with, but does this mean Clark was her boyfriend or just a friendly ex-cop neighbor? But that’s just guesswork: we’re also missing the central piece of information, which is whether Ellison was even a residence of the house.

If this were to be turned into one of my stories, and the real people replaced by characters, neither man would have anything to do with the woman: they’re both just random neighbors who happen to get into a fight that becomes a homicide. I’d do a little misdirection and lead Diana and Mustapha down the path of “oh, of course, old boyfriend, new boyfriend, custody battle…” before bringing out the fact that neither of them had any real contact with her.

The next biggest cliché would be the two men knew each other from before: the detective would unearth some buried piece of evidence that showed the two men had a previous conflict. Maybe misdirect with that, too. Because the real reveal in the story would be that there’s a third man, the actual now-ex of the woman (she’d be an actual character in the story, too) who in some way causes or escalates the conflict that leaves one guy dead and another charged with his murder. The story would have the third man in the way background, and then with each scene, others’ testimony would bring him in a little closer to the actual scene. And therein lies drama, because how can the detectives arrest him for just using words to provoke a gunfight?

Edit: Twelve hours later, 11Alive comes through: Clark was investigated and disciplined before leaving the force, and Ellison is the father of the children. This doesn’t seem like the sort of information that would be difficult to find or to update the article with—they could have phoned Glenn Daniel—but there’s the AJC for you. Again, this is a crime fiction blog, so we’re not here to criticize Ellison, but rather to take real-life crimes and explore how their structure or some of their details might work in the context of a fictional crime story.